Trackers

A couple of weeks ago I went to the local shopping centre looking for a thermometer. After entering one store upon leaving without buying anything a tracker was assigned to me. He followed me dutifully around the shopping centre, took careful note of how I walked. Whenever I visited a store he made a note in his little black book (he kept calling it my profile, but he didn’t want to show me what was in it so I assume it was actually his, rather than mine). Each of those stores of course assigned trackers to me as well and soon enough I was followed by my own personal posse of non-descript guys with little black books making notes.

After doing my shopping I went home. To my surprise they expected to come into the house with me, which I objected against. That didn’t stop them, instead of walking in with me through the front door they forced the back door and installed themselves at my table. One of them had found my mobile phone and was going through my list of contacts, adding the names and the numbers of the people that I knew to a thing they called a ‘social graph’. It mattered a lot to them, apparently. Every visitor to my house was asked a whole pile of personal questions, and overnight they’d been up to something because the next morning my newspaper had been cut up, with all kinds of blank windows between the articles. They assured me that all of this was entirely legal.

Upset about this I decided to read my newspaper in the park, where I expected at least a little bit more privacy. I probably should have known better. The trackers of course followed me to the park and set up an impromptu auction of the space created by the holes in my paper. Every time I would open a page the space on that page would come up for auction, and the tracker that won the auction would quickly glue an advertisement that he’d brought with him over the gap in the page. Mysteriously quite a few of the ads were for thermometers, even though I no longer had a need for one (having found one in the drawer in the bathroom that same evening). The newspaper guy that did the auctions thought this was a-ok, and encouraged the trackers to bid ever higher based on all the stuff that he told them about me. The information they used included all the stuff in ‘my’ profile (some of which came as a surprise to me, for instance, he knew roughly what I earned, knew the fact that I had kids and a whole raft of other details that I did not consider to be any of his business and even today I have no idea how he got that information) as well as our current location on that park bench.

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